Robert Macomber "Bob" Akin, III (March 6, 1936 - April 29, 2002) was a successful business executive, journalist, television commentator and champion sports car racing driver.
Bob Akin was born March 6, 1936, in North Tarrytown, N.Y., and was raised in Sleepy Hollow Manor. He was educated at Hackley School in Tarrytown and later served on its board for 30 years and as president from 1980 to 1990. At Columbia University, he earned a bachelor's degree in engineering and a master's degree in business administration. He spent 40 years with the Hudson Wire Company in Ossining, N.Y., which was founded by his grandfather in 1901, and was president from 1974 until he retired in 1995. In 1989 the company was dominating the worldwide aircraft and aerospace wiring market when it was sold to the Phelps Dodge Corporation.
Akin began his racing career in 1957, competing in outboard boat racing and in drag racing in 1957 and 1958. He switched to road racing, acquiring his amateur SCCA national racing license in 1959 and hired legendary sports car racer John Fitch as his driving coach. Proving a quick study, he piloted an Alfa Veloce Spider to his first win in only his third race at Bridgehampton. He drove a front engine Volpini Formula Junior in 1960, then switched to a 1957 Ferrari 500 TRC for several races during the early part of the 1961 season, before retiring in July of that year, to concentrate on the family business.
Almost by accident, Akin returned to racing in 1973, after accepting an invitation from his friend, Sam Posey, to drive a few laps in his Mercedes-Benz 300SL, at the July 4th, 1973 Vintage Sports Car Club of America event at Lime Rock Park. Within a month, he was back at it in earnest, driving a Lotus 11 in vintage racing events until switching to the 1959 Cooper-Monaco that would prove to be his favorite racer, in 1975.
In 1978, he purchased a Porsche RSR Carrera thinking it would be fun to run in the 1978 12 Hours of Sebring. They ran what was considered to be a test run at Daytona, before the Sebring event, then continued on racing a full season that would include racing at Le Mans with a Porsche 935 Turbo. Now solidly back in the drivers seat, compiled an impressive list of achievements, highlighted by a 6-Hour win at Watkins Glen, '79 and '86 12 Hours of Sebring victories, two second-place finishes in the '81 and '82 24 Hours of Daytona, six appearances, including a fourth overall in '84, at Le Mans. He won the IMSA Camel GT series in 1986 and had four top-10 finishes in IMSA Endurance Championship points standings. He was also a member and former president of the prestigious Road Racing Drivers Club.
Akin retired from professional racing in 1991 but stayed quite active in the sport. He returned to racing his beloved vintage and historic cars, competed in the Fastmasters racing series, wrote articles for Road & Track magazine, and did on-air commentary for Speedvision, TBS and ESPN television. Following his retirement from Hudson Wire Company, in 1995, Akin also devoted his time to the management of Bob Akin Motorsports (Now Hudson Historics), which specializes in the restoration and race preparation of historic race cars.
On April 25, 2002, he was gravely injured in a violent crash while testing a powerful (900-plus horsepower, twin-turbocharged V-6) 1988 Nissan GTP ZX-Turbo for the Walter Mitty Challenge for historic cars at Road Atlanta. His injuries included a broken neck, left leg, left shoulder and right arm, along with third-degree burns over 15 percent of his body. He was airlifted to Grady Memorial Hospital after the accident. After briefly rallying, the 66 year old succumbed due to complications from his injuries on April 29, 2002.
The Bob Akin Memorial Motorsports Award
In memory of Akin, the Road Racing Drivers Club (RRDC) established the Bob Akin Memorial Motorsports Award, in 2003. The selection committee consists of Brian Redman, Archie Urciuoli and Bob's son, Bobby Akin. The permanent trophy, designed by Steuben Glass, in Corning, New York, is inscribed with the name and year of award of each annual recipient, and displayed at the International Motor Racing Research Center at Watkins Glen, New York. Individual replica trophies are given to each honoree.
“The Akin award is for ‘speed with style’ which aptly describes Bob Akin” said RRDC President Bobby Rahal. “Not every member of the RRDC is a professional driver, but every one loves racing and is a good guy, and that perfectly describes Bob.” The Road Racing Drivers Club presents the Bob Akin Memorial Motorsports Award annually to the race driver who exemplifies the characteristics for which Bob was known and respected:
- A passion for motorsports and automobiles
- A history of successful amateur and/or vintage racing
- A high level of sportsmanship and fair play
- An articulate and courteous presence
- A sharp wit and mischievous sense of humor
- A broad range of interests and meticulous attention to detail
- A record of contribution to motorsports and the community
- A devotion to family and friends
Bob Akin Memorial Motorsports Award Recipients
2003 – Sam Posey
2004 – Charlie Gibson
2005 – John Fitch
2006 – Jim Haynes
2007 – Cameron Argetsinger
2008 – Jim Downing
2009 – Steven J. Earle
2010 – Augie Pabst
Primary Information Sources
NY Times Obituary, dated May 3, 2002, Bob Akin, 66, Auto Racer Who Won at Sebring Twice
Internet Source: Dark Horse Racing
Internet Source: Hudson Historics About Us
Internet Source: Historic Racing
Internet Source: Road Racing Drivers Club